The modern harvester operator must be aware of many factors while operating.
Operators have to visually monitor the terrain, machinery, the stand and the trees they are cutting to be able to plan, evaluate and adjust their tasks. Researchers set about evaluating the various aspects that keeps the attention of the operators, with the goal of identifying opportunities to automate some of these tasks and create decision support systems. It was important to not only understand what the harvester operators do, but also what they look at and why they focus on specific aspects during specific tasks. The research results could also assist with operator training and knowledge transfer between age and experience groups.
The researchers used a head-mounted eye-tracking system in forest harvesting machines in a normal production setting to obtain information on operators’ visual behaviour (gaze patterns). The gaze pattern analysis revealed that the operators looked at the harvester head or forest most of the time, but their gaze behaviours varied during different harvesting operations. They looked at the monitor, canopy and falling trees less frequently during first thinning than during second thinning and final felling. The results indicate that some harvesting information is gathered in advance to get an overview and plan the work, but most eye movements closely follow the actions of the actual harvester head. By automating certain head and boom functions, the operator would have more time to carry out activities such as planning.
The research was published in the International Journal of Forest Engineering, Vol. 26(2), 2015. The article was titled “Examining the gaze behaviors of harvester operators: an eye-tracking study”. The authors were C Häggströma, M Englund and O Lindroos. Source: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14942119.2015.1075793